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Your Environment. Your Health.

Understanding the Link Between Environment, Nutrition, and Autism: Examining Approaches to Reduce Risk

Partnerships for Environmental Public Education (PEPH)

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Understanding the Link Between Environment, Nutrition, and Autism: Examining Approaches to Reduce Risk

March 21, 2019

Interviewee: Rebecca J. Schmidt, M.S., Ph.D.

In this podcast we’ll learn more about autism and what NIEHS-funded researchers are doing to understand gene-by-environment contributions to autism. Plus, we’ll hear how prenatal vitamins may be useful in reducing the risk of autism.

Understanding the Link Between Environment, Nutrition, and Autism: Examining Approaches to Reduce Risk

Autism is a group of complex disorders involving brain development. Symptoms often appear very early in childhood and include difficulties in social communication as well as restricted patterns of behavior and interests. Both genetic and environmental factors contribute to autism, and researchers are working to better understand how these factors interact.

In this podcast we’ll learn more about autism and what NIEHS-funded researchers are doing to understand gene-by-environment contributions to autism. Plus, we’ll hear how prenatal vitamins may be useful in reducing the risk of autism.

Interviewee

Rebecca Schmidt

Rebecca J. Schmidt, M.S., Ph.D., is Assistant Professor in the Department of Public Health Sciences, University of California – Davis, School of Medicine. Her research aims to understand how environmental exposures, especially during early development in the womb, and genomic factors influence children’s brain and behavioral development. She has also focused on the relationship between maternal nutrition and genetics and autism spectrum disorders.

Schmidt and her colleagues were the first to identify a significant association between prenatal vitamin intake and reduced risk for autism spectrum disorders. In addition, they were among the first to report significant gene-by-environment interaction effects for autism, providing a potential explanation for the variation in findings across autism genetics studies. Her research continues to explore the underlying mechanisms behind observed interactions, including epigenetic effects, with the goal of identifying pathways for prevention and intervention.

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